June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.1031.1 - 11.1031.10
Professional Engineering Education Best Practice Study for First-Year, Multi-disciplinary Courses
Highly beneficial professional engineering courses are those that include both components of theory and hands-on learning. Hands-on group design projects can be viewed as essential because they tie together all of the theory and force students to start thinking like real engineers. Through the presentation and assessment of design projects, students can recognize their strengths and weaknesses (time management, communication skills, problem solving ability, etc.) early on so that they can develop these skills in future courses. This approach of combining theory and practice is consistent with criteria set forth by Engineers Australia and ABET for engineering degree programs. Both organizations encourage a realistic understanding of professional practice, including project management and ethics, and require students to be able to work in multi-disciplinary groups and communicate effectively. Although universities have the entire duration of the degree program to meet these requirements, students benefit greatly from early exposure. The purpose of this study was to discuss best practices for introductory courses that focus on professional engineering skills and practice. Through internet-based research, information was gathered about 82 courses at universities in Australia, the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Courses that were multi-disciplinary and mandatory for first-year students were analyzed to determine best practices; the University of Queensland’s Introduction to Professional Engineering course was used as a case study.
According to feedback from employers, a major weakness of engineering programs continues to be producing graduates with an unrealistic view of the role of professional engineers and inadequate professional skills.4 Today, universities are actively trying to better prepare students with the communication, teambuilding, business and interpersonal skills to complement their technical engineering knowledge. Many universities are beginning this preparation during the first year with introductory professional engineering courses.
A profession is a learned calling which requires advanced knowledge, understanding, and abilities that are gained from intensive and specialized education, training, and practical experience. More specifically, professional engineering involves the application of a theoretical body of knowledge to solving problems and designing systems. Professional engineers are expected to work as members of teams to develop innovative and creative solutions to problems. They must make judgments about design options based on cost, aesthetics, risk of failure, and environmental impact. In addition, they must be willing to undertake on-going learning to update their knowledge and refine their skills.2
According to a survey conducted by the Engineers Leadership Foundation and the Foundation for Professional Practice of almost two hundred senior engineering managers and leaders, engineering knowledge is essential, but leadership positions can be attained earlier if engineering graduates have been exposed to management, public speaking, and other non-engineering coursework. Respondents highly recommended taking courses in
Simmons, J., & Barrella, E., & Buffinton, K. (2006, June), Professional Engineering Education Best Practice Study For First Year, Multi Disciplinary Courses Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--115
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